Public Education: Measuring Success in the Classroom in Pennsylvania

This is part three of a series of articles addressing the recent charges being levied against School Property Tax Elimination.  The charges are attempts at misinformation about the actual legislation (HB/SB 76) and deliberate misdirection away from discussing the actual results of the excessive spending.
A series of hit pieces has begun to pour out from School Board and Administrators in opposition to HB/SB 76.   These articles are basically a series of pieces intended to generate misdirection and in doing so often contain gross misrepresentation of the actual bill they are fighting against.

Stripped of their rhetoric, these articles defend the current system of education funding based solely on their ability to increase the revenue wants.  Not a single one of these articles actually produce any substantive evidence that spending more has achieved actual results where it matters….with the student in the classroom.

I’ve shared this chart in the blog before but it needs to be shared again:

image11

If success is to be measured only by the ability to spend more than our schools are successful but is this really the sole purpose of education?

Shouldn’t the real measure of success be found in being able to prove that the increase of spending has produced substantive results in the classroom?

The attacks against HB/SB 76 point only to the PSBA, PASBO and Administrators limiting their ability to spend more money at their sole discretion.  Not a single argument has been made that actually shows  all their spending wants have actually produced results when it comes to the child in the classroom.

There is good reason for that.  All the evidence is to the contrary.

The majority of our students are graduating from high school ill-prepared for college. They will require remedial training in one or more in the most primary purposes of our educational system: reading, math and science.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tells us that compared to the first assessment in 1971 for reading and in 1973 for mathematics, scores were not significantly different for 17-year-olds in 2012.  That can be seen in the following chart (source: https://nationsreportcard.gov/)

report-card

These results clearly tell us that the majority of our students graduate from High School without being proficient in the very subjects that should be the primary purpose of a public education.  In fact the study reveals that the longer the child is in the public education system, the lower the results of proficiency.  Why is Grade 4 8% more proficient in History than Grade 12?  Why is Grade 4 15% more proficient in Mathematics than Grade 12?

The real test of success of “education” should be the results produced in the classroom, not in the ability to spend more and more.

The only “success” of spending more has been to create the want to spend even more.

In all the hit pieces coming out of those agencies responsible for educating our children all they cite is a defense of wanting to spend more. There is no substantive evidence that this spending has actually done anything to improve the quality of education in the classroom. From their rhetoric, that is apparently not their goal!

The Pennsylvania Association of School Business Official (PASBO) sent out a report about the retained debt listing, school district by school district, the debt that will be retained by the schools once HB/SB 76 is passed.  This portion of funding will remain until that debt is paid in full.

They cite this ability to accumulate debt as a reason to oppose school property tax elimination but show no correlative data to prove that accumulating this debt actually translated into increased performance in education standards within the classroom.

Some of our opponents tell us that it isn’t the property tax that is the problem.  They tell us that we need to cut spending and that will solve the property tax problem.

I fail to grasp how you can reach the conclusion that the very thing (property tax) that allows the spending problem to grow isn’t the reason that spending has grown.   Any attempt to reign in spending now can be quickly undone in future years as long as they have open access and ease in increasing spending through something like a property tax.

To me this is like trying to cure cancer by treating the symptom and not destroying the cancer cells.  If your goal is to create a false sense of security by treating the surface symptom without curing the root of the problem; if you want to have to go to the doctor in perpetuity because the doctor treats the symptoms and not the root cause; then fighting to reign in spending and try keep it under control for eternity is the path to follow.

If you get at the root of the spending, or the ease at increasing the spending, then you actually create a scenario where future increases become much more difficult.  That’s what HB/SB 76 does.  It caps all future spending to the rate of inflation with regards to revenue currently seen through the property tax by eliminating the property tax and replacing it with a far more equitable system of taxation.

I am very disturbed by the talking points used by those School Board officials writing op-eds in newspapers that defend spending more for the sake of spending more while not demanding better results for our children in the classroom.  Of course, statistically, they can’t defend both.

I am equally disturbed by the depths of misrepresentation that these “officials’ are going to in demonizing this legislation.

Here are some examples from a recent article:

Opposition Talking Point #1: “They would divvy out based on cost per student and whatever ratio they come up with,” Thomas McMurray, school board president, said about the state’s role under a new funding system.”

FACT: Under HB-SB 76 there is no cost-per student adjustment.   Each school districts revenue currently collected through the property tax would be replaced at a dollar-for-dollar level and they would get annual increases on that revenue based on the rate of inflation.

Opposition Talking Point #2 “We are going to be at the beck and call of a state government who is going to choose how much money we get.”

FACT: Under HB/SB 76 the distribution of the funding is found in Chapter 13.  The funding is through the Treasury Department and is allocated to the schools totally exclusive and independent from the budget appropriations process in Harrisburg.

Opposition Talking Point #3 “If the state pulls one of these stunts where they don’t pass a budget and we don’t get our revenue, we would be in a major world of hurt compared with where we are today, because of the heavy emphasis we have on property taxes,”

FACT:  As stated above, budget negotiations will have no impact on the replacement revenue.  It is a separate account for the designated purpose of replacing the revenue through the Educational Stabilization Fund.

Opposition talking point #4:  “And if we want to do a special program and they’re not going to give us money, we can’t do the special program.”

FACT:  Under HB/SB 76 any special program the school board wants to accomplish can happen merely by making their case to the voters through a no-exemption voter referendum.  HB/SB 76 restores the actual concept of Local Control in that it restores control to the constituents in the school district.

As Thomas Jefferson said “I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them but to inform their discretion.”

 

As you see in these 4 talking points, once again we are not talking about defending the spending increases based on tested and improved results in the classroom.  Spending for spending’s sake remains their only defense.

We are doing our children a great disservice.  If the people responsible for the education of our children are not doing what is necessary to defend their positions honestly, how can we trust them to impart practical knowledge in the classroom that isn’t of a biased nature?

Increased spending in education has produced only one proven thing.  Increased Spending.  The school property tax has become the great enabler.  It has allowed the public to be deluded into believing they retain local control when this is no longer the case.  In many ways our General Assembly has surrender their responsibilities with regards to education to the state’s Department of Education which is largely controlled by the PSEA.

The books shown above consist of more than 3,000 pages of regulations pushed down on our school districts inflating the cost of education with no provable results except in increasing the cost of education.  These regulations are mostly unfunded mandates, many of which offer unique protective requirements of the Public Sector Unions.

Rather than direct their anger at the failures of the Department of Education, School Boards have simply surrendered to the concept of taking more money from the  people by making unjust claims to a right over our homes that was never intended when the property tax originated.  By defending their right to extort our property with no tangible results in the classroom they, by their words and actions, support the current system as it stand while opposing the rights rights of the individuals and families in their homes.  They deny that Article 1, Section 1 of our State Constitution applies.

We can not expect the PSBA, PASBO, Department of Education or the PSEA to support reigning in costs since they benefit from the ability to increase those costs through arbitrary means that work against the working families of this Commonwealth.  They will protect those self-interests even if such actions are detrimental to the economic well-being of this state.

The massive regulations being passed on to the local school districts happen because there is a property tax.  The Department of Education has no power of taxation, they are reliant on the local property tax to implement the myriad of regulations and requirements at the local level to defend and support the state’s Teacher’s Union.  This is NOT an indictment of individual teachers.  Many teachers are frustrated with what they see happening in their classrooms.

Rather than direct their anger at the failures of the Department of Education, School Boards have simply surrendered to the concept of taking more money from the  people by making unjust claims to a right over our homes that was never intended when the property tax originated.  By defending their right to extort our property with no tangible results in the classroom they, by their words and actions, support the current system as it stand while opposing the rights rights of the individuals and families in their homes.  They deny that Article 1, Section 1 of our State Constitution applies.

Success in the classroom is not to be measured by how much is spent or by how much a program costs to implement.  Success should be measured by the results in the classroom in improving the individual students performance and success.  By that standard, the increasing cost of a public education has been an abject failure.

When it comes to public education, the status quo is broken.  It calls for a radical departure away from tradition for tradition’s sake into bold new areas.  It’s time to stop defending the indefensible.  It is time to seek new common-sense paths in education.

HB/SB 76 restores a portion of economic liberty by placing it in the hands of the people to reinvest in their communities and the business environment.  It makes Pennsylvania more attractive to businesses by eliminating the egregious and regressive property tax which will generate more jobs, more income and more revenue for supporting the things that are important to us.  It will help to curb the growing problem of out-migration.

Most importantly HB/SB 76 removes the isolation of property ownership  in the funding of education restoring the rightful ownership of that property to the individual where it can no longer be pillaged by the school district to meet their unwarranted demands at their discretion.   It destroys the most unfair and regressive form of taxation in the funding of education that exists.

In closing, Albert Einstein is broadly credited with exclaiming “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”. That certainly applies to those who continue to defend the indefensible-the property tax!

 

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